“Who do you blame it on? For a while it was China, until the most favourite target for the Indians appeared on the scene – you know who. When it comes to the business of blaming, Indians (a large percentage of them) would have loved it if the virus had originated somewhere in the Middle East or in Pakistan.
But new viruses have always appeared in human history, some more deadly than others. This one is the newest such calamity. Sure enough, humanity will be found standing on the other side of this crisis. But, how shall we count the losses after this mayhem is over?
‘It seems we are massively entering a quarantine of consumption where we will learn how to be happy just with a simple dress, rediscovering old favourites we own, reading a forgotten book and cooking up a storm to make life beautiful. The impact of the virus will be cultural and crucial to building an alternative and profoundly different world.’ – Li Edelkoort, trend forecaster and fashion advisor
As large parts of the world reel under the impact of a lockdown that has prompted several people to recall the great lockdowns during the early twentieth century Spanisht flu and even the 14th centry plague, my thoughts in fact strayed in another direction. With international and national air traffic down to the barest minimum, with arenas of conspicuous consumption shut down, zillions of cars of the roads and construction activity to a halt, I was suddenly struck by a not-so-crazy thought: with all the suffering that a lockdown necessarily entails for the poorer sections of the population in particular, there might still be a silver lining here. Perhaps the temperature of the earth will have come down a few notches by the time we are done with this crisis and what is more, it might initiate a different mode of being in the world. It might give the world an opportunity to see what is continuously being denied by climate-deniers (as Naomi Klein recorded, backed by huge funds from right-wing US based foundations and corporations). It might – it just might – reconnect us with what we have long left behind and have been longing for – a different pace of life where slow is beautiful, as it were.
Praful Bidwai is no more. He died in Amsterdam on Tuesday evening due to a cardiac arrest, With his death we have lost the ‘best left-wing journalist’ in this part of South Asia whose articles appeared in many newspapers and magazines in the subcontinent and in the middle east and was frequently published by The Guardian, Le Monde Diplomatique as well. Praful will be missed by thousands and thousands of his readers (this pen pusher included) who were ‘groomed’ by him in a career spanning more than four decades. For them he was one such voice who remained uncompromising in his strident criticism of communal fundamentalisms of various kinds and the crony capitalism which is having a field day these days. He was a leading voice for nuclear disarmament and peace as well and had written extensively on it. It was a strange coincidence that we met last in the capital when a memorial meeting was organised by Communist Party of India to remember the legendary Comrade Govind Pansare who was assassinated few days back. He was to speak in the meeting. The meeting was yet to start and I could steal some time to talk to him. He told he is working on a book – which was near completion – on the left movement in the country and had interviewed many activists associated with the movement to listen to their understanding of challenges before the left. And in that connection he had long meeting with Com Pansare – once in Kolhapur and one possibly in Mumbai. He shared his fascination about the energies he still had at that age for ‘the cause’. Few days after the meeting, there was a call from him asking for a phone number of a dalit activist which incidentally I did not have. Yes, that was the last time I spoke to him.
Several years ago a friend of mine filed a petition in the Indian Supreme Court against – believe it or not- the tenth incarnation of the Hindu God Vishnu! Or at least, against a fellow who claimed to be ‘Kalki Bhagwan’ and has in the past two decades drummed up a significant following in the southern part of India.
Blasphemous as the claim of this fake avatar was the court battle itself was not really about the finer details of Hindu mythology or theological doctrine.Based on several years of painstaking investigation and research it was my friend’s claim that ‘Kalki Bhagwan’, had taken money from the public for ‘rural development activities’ and fraudulently diverted it to his personal bank accounts as well as that of his close relatives.
From being an ordinary clerk working for the Life Insurance Corporation in Chennai thirty years ago today the ‘Tenth Incarnation of Vishnu’ is allegedly worth many million dollars and owns vast properties in many parts of South India. It is a trajectory that is tragically very common everywhere, with spurious spirituality – ironically also a form of ‘insurance’-being the fastest way to material wealth and power since ancient times. Continue reading Real Estate of Religion:Satya Sagar→
In May this year the investment banking powerhouse Goldman Sachs released a report that predicted Brazil would win the FIFA world cup. The prediction relied on statistical modelling and used tools like “Regression Analysis”, “Poisson Distribution”, “Stochastic model” and “Monte Carlo Simulation”. In other words, the methodology is incomprehensible to anyone except those with an advanced degree in Statistics or Econometrics. In hindsight, the prediction looks silly, given the 7-1 score line in the semi-final match between Germany and Brazil. However, the report is a perfect example of the failures of modern economics, particularly the financial voodoo economics pushed by the likes of Goldman Sachs.
When “The World Cup and Economics 2014” was released on May 27 it gained a lot of press publicity globally. The report predicted that Spain would reach the semi-final stage and lose to Argentina, which would lose to Brazil in the final. Goldman’s research division analyzed reams of data, including about 14,000 matches since 1960, national teams’ Elo rankings, average goals scored per team, home country and home continent advantage. To be sure, the report states that the predictions are just “probabilities” of teams advancing. Still the report states, “The most striking aspect of our model is how heavily it favours Brazil to win the World Cup”, and, “the extent of the Brazilian advantage in our model is nevertheless striking.” Continue reading How Goldman Sachs Got it Wrong on Football, The World Cup and Economics: Tushar Dhara→
Talk delivered by RAVI SINHA at the International Seminar on “Democracy, Socialism, and the Visions for the 21st Century”, 7th to 10th March, 2014 Hyderabad, India
If one has to say something brief and short about a large and complex subject, which is also a much discussed topic, one always runs the risk of stating the obvious. But one may also chance upon the unexpected and the counter-intuitive. Problems of democracy under capitalism and under socialism have by now a ring of tiring familiarity around them, but they also contain surprises that are hidden in plain sight. While fixing my coordinates by recounting the obvious, my hope is to point towards aspects that may be counter-intuitive to the political common sense prevalent in much of the left and the social movements.
Let me begin with the status of democracy under capitalism. Popular mind considers them complementary to each other. Ancients – whether in Greece or in India – were familiar with the concept of democracy and, at least in some famous examples, they are also supposed to have practiced it. But the large-scale acceptance and practice of democracy overlaps with the history of capitalism. In addition, the history of socialism of the twentieth century has been such that this association got further entrenched in the popular mind. I will come to the socialism question a little later. For now, let me stay with the relationship between democracy and capitalism.
If I were to say, then, that at the core of this relationship lies a tension that is fundamentally irresolvable, it would appear counter-intuitive to the popular common sense. On the other hand, it would appear obvious to a leftist. On both counts there are reasons to dig a little deeper. Truth is often counter-intuitive for the wrong reasons, but at times it is also obvious for the wrong reasons.
On August 14th, Narendra Modi declared that his Independence Day speech would attract as much attention as that of the Prime Minister. He appears to have been right. The fact that this is hardly unexpected should not obscure the deeper puzzle that it hides. It is a rare occurrence for a state level leader to suddenly get so much prominence in the media, and that too for such a long period. Why, then, have powerful forces in our society – including most of the media – chosen to endorse Modi? Why the sudden promotion of this particular leader at this particular time? What is it that he and his regime are offering?
Guest Post by M AKHIL: Listen to the flourish. The stage is set, the side-kicks are in place and the sycophants are scampering tirelessly to welcome their emperor. Narendra Modi has started his journey to the high seat of Indraprastha.
Curiously enough, his current ride is being celebrated as a victory lap by his ardent supporters. A bit too quick, don’t you think? Especially for a man who was only a few years ago, in terrible danger of being convicted for one of the most gruesome state-sponsored genocides in the history of independent India. Of course, he hasn’t been convicted yet, but many of his ministers and close aides have been. Babu Bajrangi’s confessions on record must be more than enough proof for Modi’s culpability. 1 Alas! Facts get twisted in the most unimaginable ways as they threaten to blow away an edifice carefully built by a dominant plutocracy with immense help from the ‘State-Temple-Corporate Complex’. 2 Here, I shall attempt to bust the Modi bubble which is being ridiculously pumped up by the holy nexus, even as you are reading this. After all, the BJP is possibly the party with the highest following among Indian netizens and the online publicity team of the current supremo is meticulous. An alternative view will be stark, but hopefully it will serve as food for thought for those among us getting nauseated by the dominant narrative. Continue reading Lies, Damn Lies and NaMo – Why I do not support Modi and why you shouldn’t either: M Akhil→
Guest post by MARUTI SUZUKI WORKERS UNION (Provisonal Working Committee)
[This is a statement issued by the MSWU – Provisional Working Committee on the All India Protest Day held on the 5th of February in many cities and industrial areas in Solidarity with the workers of the Maruti Suzuki Factory in Manesar, Gurgaon, Haryana. Predictably this important statement and report was not carried by the mainstream media.]
Today, 5th February 2013, the great response to our appeal to all trade unions, workers, democratic organizations and progressive forces to hold an ALL-INDIA PROTEST DAY in solidarity with our struggle, against the continued exploitation, repression and injustice by the Maruti Suzuki company and Haryana Government, has further strengthened our resolve. 147 of our fellow workers are arrested and have not got bail for last 7 months, 66 more have non-bailable arrest warrants against them, 546 permanent and 1800 contract workers terminated from our jobs have not been reinstated, and we continue to face continued police repression, anti-worker administration and a state which has nakedly sided with the company-management. Even thus we are determined to carry forward our struggle to release all jailed workers, reinstate all terminated workers, impartial probe into the 18 July incident, implementation of labour laws and abolition of contract worker system.
(This article began as a rejoinder to Hindi columnist Raj Kishor [Vaam se dakshin tak ek hi tark, (‘The same argument from Left to Right’), Rashtriya Sahara, January 13 2013], but it has also provided an occasion to address some common misconceptions about women’s freedom and capitalism.)
When women demand ‘freedom,’ why does it immediately raise the spectre of ‘licentiousness’?
Why, in other words, is women’s freedom automatically taken by many as equivalent with ‘licence,’ whereas the similar freedom on the part of men is never branded as ‘licence’?
This question arose in my mind after reading a piece by Hindi columnist Raj Kishor. Raj Kishor’s argument is that those – from Left leaders like I, to those whom he sees as representatives of the market – who are calling for women’s freedom are ‘consigning women into the fire of capitalism.’ When he hears me use the word ‘azaadi’ (freedom) he calls such freedom ‘utshrnkhalta’ (literally ‘unbridled-ness’, or licentiousness). He says and I, and the capitalist market alike, are calling for women to be free to ‘break all bounds of licentiousness’ if they so choose. Of course, Raj Kishor anticipates my criticism of his use of the word ‘utshrnkhalta’, since he says that is a word that ‘has feminists up in arms, demanding with red (infuriated) eyes the definition of ‘utshrnkhalta’.
Watching the world tumble down around us, the holy markets especially, what has amused and angered is the way in which the media refuses to let go of its Sunny Disposition on Life, the Universe and Everything. This would be pathetic if it wasn’t so rampant. The Times of India has plumped up its Delhi Times this weekend to ten pages filled with exhortations to shop and full-page ads on shiny commodities. Its spectacularly vacuous Sunday Times is bursting with stories about celebrities valiantly keeping up the Diwali spirit, and thumbing their noses at the looming depression by buying more Louis Vuitton bags.
[Being a sequel to ‘Singur, Mediotics and an NGO Called Indian Express‘]
“There is a painting by Klee called Angelus Novus. An angel is depicted there who looks as though he were about to distance himself from something which he is staring at. His eyes are opened wide, his mouth stands open and his wings are outstretched. The Angel of History must look just so. His face is turned towards the past. Where we see the appearance of a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe, which unceasingly piles rubble on top of rubble and hurls it before his feet. He would like to pause for a moment…to awaken the dead and to piece together what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise, it has caught itself up in his wings and is so strong that the Angel can no longer close them. The storm drives him irresistibly into the future, to which his back is turned, while the rubble-heap before him grows sky-high. That which we call progress, is this storm.” Walter Benjamin, “Theses on the Philosophy of History.”
These prophetic words were written in 1920 1940, when modernity’s arrogant faith in Progress was still pretty much intact. The rubble-heap of Progress has since piled up like never before. The world is now engaged in battling the effects of modernity that threaten humanity’s very existence. We know, for instance, that global warming or climate change threatens to destroy human civilization itself. Who knows, perhaps, millions of years later, some future civilization might discover its remains submerged under the sea and wonder at the heights of the ‘Progress’ it had achieved. Little might it occur to them that it was Progress itself that took this civilization to the sea.
S. Anand draws his own conclusions from a trip to Azamgarh, about which Aditya Nigam had earlier written a post on Kafila.
While the urban elite, who can afford to indulge the growing fad of organic slow-food, would now happily pay a premium price for the hard bread (appreciating its high-fibre content) that Dalits were forced to eat owing to denial and deprivation, the rural Dalits are forced into the maida economy of Maggi Continue reading An epitaph for the bull-hull economy→
Partha’s work has been a central reference point for the work of many of us and his notion of ‘political society’ has provided an unprecedented opening, a possibility – that of thinking the ‘unthinkable’. I would go so far as to say that the enunciation of the idea of ‘political society’ has been one of the most important conceptual interventions of ‘postcolonial’ political theory – that is to say, political (and social theory) produced from/in the postcolonial world; an intervention in theory that for the first time brings in the postcolonial experience into its very heart. I shall even claim that the potential and possibilities of this concept are of far wider applicability than the geographical ‘third world’ and can provide a lens for looking at the so-called first world itself. But on that more later. Continue reading Political Society and the Fable of Primitive Accumulation→